Buddy dog Sam is a Wigan boy's life-saver

A four-legged friend has transformed the life of a Wigan teenager.
Joshua with the faithful SamJoshua with the faithful Sam
Joshua with the faithful Sam

Joshua Greaves was just three years old when he was diagnosed with a neurological condition that would impact his health, including his sight.

Now 15, with his buddy dog Sam by his side, Joshua can do anything.

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By the age of 10, Joshua had already been through major brain and heart surgery, had a brain tumour removed, and completely lost his sight in one eye and was left with just 30 per cent tunnel vision in the other.

Throughout these challenges, which are more than most people deal with in a lifetime, Joshua became sad and withdrawn.

Mum Emma said: “My once happy little boy regressed into himself. He became really sad and lonely, and asked why this had to happen to him.

“He wasn’t mixing with other kids and didn’t have any special close friends. He was about to start high school and we were so worried and nervous about how he would fit in.”

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At one of Guide Dogs’ family fun days at its North West Regional Centre in Atherton, Emma and her family went along to see if they could get some information to help at school.

There they found a stand about buddy dogs.

Guide Dogs’ buddy dogs bring a new friend into the lives of children with sight loss.

By helping to develop their self-confidence, improve relationships and build a greater sense of trust, these dogs can have a hugely positive effect on a child’s wellbeing.

Emma said they all got “really excited” and thought a buddy dog would be a “great way to introduce Josh to the responsibility of caring for a dog.”

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A buddy dog, they thought, would also be a nice companion for Joshua.

But after moving into their Hindley home in 2017, golden retriever Labrador cross Sam became much more than that - he transformed his young owner.

Emma described the impact as unbelievable: “The relationship and bond between Joshua and Sam is something else.

“Joshua became more confident; he settled well at high school and began mixing with other kids.”

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Fast-forward four years to 2021. Joshua is now 15 years old and is an energetic, happy and confident young man who attends Westhoughton High School.

Sam has given Joshua the confidence to try new things, including learning to use a long white cane, bake fudge and fund-raise for Guide Dogs.

Emma said: “Joshua is full of life. He has great friends, he goes out on walks, he’s even ridden a bike! It’s just incredible that a dog can change so much.

“Joshua wanted to give something back to Guide Dogs for giving him Sam, so he started fund-raising. He bakes fudge at home, which he sells and has taken part in sponsored walks.”

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Joshua has almost raised enough money to name his own guide dog puppy, which he wants to call George after his late grandad. Through Guide Dogs’ Name a Puppy scheme, Joshua will be able to follow a puppy’s journey to become a life-changer.

To find out more about Guide Dogs, visit guidedogs.org.uk

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